nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic


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At last, it’s Halloween

I say this because it feels like the run up to today has been going on forever. I knew Americans loved Halloween, but in New York it’s crazy. Houses are covered in ghoulish decorations; shops are dripping with pumpkins and other pumpkin related paraphernalia and if I see another Halloween related food stuff, I’ll scream! I have never seen anything like it.

In honour of this madness, I have been collecting photos of Halloween decorations from when I’ve been out and about in the last couple of weeks. Happy Halloween!

If this isn't enough to catch your attention, get closer to the door and find the notice telling you this property has been condemned!

If this isn’t enough to catch your attention, get closer to the door and find the notice telling you this property has been condemned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh dear, the wicked witch of the east appears to have met her end under this hay bale.

Oh dear, the wicked witch of the east appears to have met her end under this hay bale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little something from Dean and Deluca that dyes your teeth black. They wouldn't let me photograph the others directly behind this one I bought for E last week.

A little something from Dean and Deluca that dyes your teeth black. They wouldn’t let me photograph the others directly behind this one I bought for E last week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A scary sight when you walk into the lobby of this apartment building.

A scary sight when you walk into the lobby of this apartment building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yet more cupcakes, this time from the new Zabar outlet on 87th and Lexington.

Yet more cupcakes, this time from the new Zabar outlet on 87th and Lexington.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most impressive of the lot, this is the front of a house on 72nd Street.

The most impressive of the lot, this is the front of a house on 72nd Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here are the front steps of the same house. What you can't see is the rocking mad lady at the top of the stairs.

And here are the front steps of the same house. What you can’t see is the rocking mad lady at the top of the stairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the side of the house. This place is nuts and attracting a lot of interest from passers by.

And the side of the house. This place is nuts and attracting a lot of interest from passers by.

 

 

 

 

 

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And one more

About the Lower East Side. Katz’s Deli. Blimey.  It is like going back in time, maybe 50 years? A New York institution, Katz’s sells Jewish comfort food writ large. And I mean large. The biggest salt beef (corned beef to Americans) sandwich ever. And we have eaten a few over the years. I illustrate my point below:

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Yes, that is one half of the sandwich. I was eating the other half. I don’t have a picture of the pastrami, but believe me, it was just as ginormous. Half the fun of Katz’s is the atmosphere. People come here on the tourist trail and locals come too. It’s a loud, crowded and chaotic place. The walls are covered in photos of the boss with famous people. The toilets look ancient (didn’t get further than the door, too off putting).

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And the staff. Well, the staff are the loveliest I have come across in some time. Here’s the lovely man who cut the pastrami for my sandwich.

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So go, take cash and have a lot of time and sharp elbows to beat the queues. I may have jumped the queue, but who cares, it was great.


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190 Bowery

And the third in a series of posts about our day out to the Lower East Side. This time it’s about the mysterious building on the corner of Bowery and Spring Street. We went by it on the way the Pickle Day and stopped short to gaze up at this graffiti clad vast old building that was once a bank. You can see from the pictures below that in its day it was very grand and imposing. The front steps retain their iron gates and the pillars are grand and imposing. The graffiti is awful.

I was intrigued. What on earth was this place. As usual, the Internet turns up the answer pretty quick. It was the home of the Germania Bank, built in the late 19th Century. The area was home to a large German population at the time and I’m sure it would have been as imposing then as it is now. Incredibly it is the home of one family, the Maisels. Jay Maisel is an artist who bought the bank for $100,000 in 1966 and has lived there ever since. He uses the space for his own art and has rented it out to other artists, including, impressively, Roy Lichtenstein. There’s a really good article from 2008 in New York Magazine, so I won’t go into any more detail here. Read it, it’s really good and the pictures are great.

As for Mr Maisel, he says he gets approached by real estate agents all the time and he has had to put a website up called 190thebowery.com to try and stop them as he has no interest in selling. New York Magazine asked agents to put a price on the 30,000+ square foot building. These topped out at $50 million and that was five years ago. New York is in the grip of a property boom right now, so heaven knows what those estimates would look like now.

So why doesn’t Maisel sell and realise his investment all those years ago? ‘Where am I going to live? A three bed apartment?’. Fair point. Not sure I’d fancy it, he and his wife have to clean up the sidewalk every day as they are responsible for it. Doubt that’s a pretty sight after a Saturday night.

190 The Bowery

190 The Bowery

190 The Bowery

 


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The Great Wall of Soho

Here’s something new. To me, anyway, and it’s nearly as old as me. It’s this fabulous wall in Soho on East Houston Street quite a way down town in Manhattan. It’s got what looks like blue girders (cue predictable Irn-Bru jokes from R at this point) sticking out of the walls. It is huge and blue and really catches your attention. I like the angle of this picture. Could be one of the bizarre art pieces at the Sculpture Park, if it wasn’t on the side of a tall building. It’s lasted longer than those Banksy pieces, anyway.

The Wall - The Gateway to SohoIMG_1215

 


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Gotta pick a pickle or two

Today is Pickle Day on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Yes, you heard right, it’s a festival of pickles. Intrigued we wandered down the 6 line to Spring Street and discovered Pickle Day on Orchard Street, which had been shut down for the occasion.

Pickle Day

And are pickles popular with the populous of New York? Why yes they are. It was rammed. There were people picking pickles everywhere. Some were quite nice and some were disgusting. There were pickles on sticks, on trays and in buckets. What a perfect way to spend a sunny Sunday in New York. We bought pickled cucumbers and fennel from Boulton and Watt, which is a restaurant nearby that makes its own pickles. You can buy a jar at the bar for $5. Beats peanuts.

Boulton and Watt pickles

 

 


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Ah, so that’s why

There are NYPD cops all over the place around 4pm this afternoon and there are railings the length of Park Avenue. This is the Upper East Side, what is going on?

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One cop tells us that the President ‘may be coming down here soon, but we don’t know’. I overhear another cop tell a lady that there’s a film shoot going on, so they’re shutting down the streets. I tend to believe the former as I read in the New York Times that the President is in town to visit schools in Brooklyn and that they shut down Prospect Park because of it. Blimey. Well, I was on a train back from Washington last night, he could have sat next to me and kipped on our sofa bed. Much cheaper.


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Searching for Avonte

Avonte Oquendo is a 14 year old autistic boy who has been missing since 4 October. The reason I know about him is because his face is plastered all over New York (see the snap of the poster on the subway below). It is all over the subways in particular because he has a fascination with trains. He disappeared from his school in Long Island City and hasn’t been seen since. The MTA who run the subways have regular announcements over the tannoy about him; the dot matrix boards interrupt messages about imminent train arrivals with more messages about him. I think by now everyone knows about Avonte and yet he is still missing. I have never seen such an effort on the London Underground and am impressed with this. I see from today’s New York Post that the reward for his safe return has risen to $85,000. I hope it works.

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All aboard the Martha express

Martha Stewart and her American Made market arrived in New York City this week. Based in the beautiful chandelier lit Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Station, dozens of small retailers from across the US had set up shop to show their wares. It was surprisingly good, with loads of samples to munch on and keep J quiet as we wandered around. This rather grand sign dominated the centre of the hall.

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The lady herself was doing a book signing, and seemed small under the enormous glittery sign in the shape of a map of the US. The queue for book signing wasn’t too long; I didn’t join it, but overheard many a camp conversation about how wonderful she is. Her hair looked nice.

Sorry she’s so tiny in the photograph below, it’s as close as I could get!

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Watching over Harlem

For many Upper East Siders the thought of going much beyond 86th Street on the East Side is anathema. Park Avenue drops off massively as it flows north through Manhattan and Fifth Avenue is a very different place once it’s not bounded by Central Park on its west side. The boutiques of Madision Avenue are long gone once you cross over 90th Street. This is Harlem. Harlem is full of amazing brownstones that, had they been twenty or more blocks south would be worth a small fortune. Here, around 125th Street they are unloved and empty.

I am here to explore Marcus Garvey Park. I spotted it on the map above the very top of Central Park and went to take a look. I had experienced 125th Street on the way to La Guardia a while ago: it’s a cacophony of street noise, buses, music, shouting and a major transport hub for the 4,5,6 trains and Metro North.

Here, below around 123rd Street is the park. Originally created in 1840 and called Mount Morris Park, it was renamed Marcus Garvey Park in the 1970s after a Jamaican political leader, active in New York politics but who died in London in 1940.

It’s a funny place. It’s 20 acres, so not huge. It contains an amphitheatre for open air performances; a large open air swimming pool and a vast sports area. It has a rocky hill in the middle made of Manhattan rock called ‘schist’. Looks pretty nice from the photograph below, eh?

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I’m afraid the reality is rather different. On it’s northern side are two run down kids playgrounds. I take J in but only because I see another mother with her three little boys there too. She makes me brave enough to go in, past the milling people, hanging out on the benches in the morning. Why are they there? Some are from the old people’s home opposite but some are too young. They look bored and listless but they are uninterested in us.

I ask this mother how I can find the Fire Watchtower that I had read about. She points to an internal road sloping up but warns me about drug ‘transactions’ and I am conflicted about going up. I had come here to see it and she thought, as do I mostly, that people pretty much ignore women with kids and buggies, so I’d probably be ok. And I was. I saw the odd character milling about but no one bothered me.

We reach the top of the hill and the Fire Watchtower is run down and unloved too. It originates from the 1850s when Manhattan had eight volunteer fire districts and each one its own watchtower. They are vast iron structures with a bell in the middle. In their time, they would have been ‘manned’ constantly, with the watcher looking for signs of fire and ringing the bell to alert the volunteer firefighters down below. Later in the century the New York Fire Department was created with permanent full time firefighters and there was no longer a need for the watchtower as communications developed over time.

Harlem Fire Watchtower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a lovely website all about this, but it really doesn’t tell you quite how sad it looks behind its high fencing with rubbish strewn around.

We wander back down through the park and into the noise of Harlem below. Watching over Harlem – at least it was quiet up there.